The Road King trundles across the Rapti Bridge, greasy axles turning, tassled wing mirrors catching the light. We’ve been behind him for twenty minutes now, trying to squeeze past as we make our way down the East West Highway towards our workshop, just outside Bardibas. It was just before 7am when we left Kathmandu, weaving up and out, over the lip of the valley, following the Trisuli river on its way down to the flatlands. With any luck we’ll make it to our destination before nightfall.
Since our last trip to Nepal things have moved on for Danusha. We’ve got a business plan in place (almost) and we’re just about ready to reveal our logo. We’ve also built relationships with shops and organisations like The Fair Traders Co-operative and we’re really grateful for such fantastic support. We like The FTC so much that we’re going to buy a share for Danusha as we believe in reciprocity.
The Danusha workshop is based at Lalgadh Hospital on Nepal’s south eastern plains which run along the Indian border. This beautiful area is largely undeveloped and a high proportion of the population live on or below the poverty line.
The project began in June 2008, in response to a need to provide training for women whose lives had been affected by leprosy. Though easily treatable, there’s still a lot of stigma associated with leprosy, so sufferers and their families may be ostracised and find it difficult to gain employment. We set up Danusha to address this issue and help make a positive difference.
Initially ten women received training in simple jewellery making. Since then they’ve received further training and now make jewellery for us to sell in the UK. They receive a fair wage and training in health and hygiene, basic literacy and personal development and receive good food and accommodation while they’re on site.
We love the fact that each piece of jewellery comes with a story which we’re able to share with our customers. Lots of people have commented that knowing something about the person who made their jewellery helps make it special, unlike something generic and mass produced from a chain store.
Recently we got one of our staff, Rekha, to tell us a little bit about her life. A beautiful young woman, Rekha is probably in her early twenties, though she doesn’t know her exact age. She lives with her husband, Sanjay, in a small village called Hariharpur in the area near Lalgadh. As well as working for Danusha, she and her husband run a snack stall at their local bazaar.
When Rekha was eight she burnt her left hand and foot, but worryingly didn’t feel any pain. She developed ulcers and went to a faith healer who couldn’t cure her. He referred her to Lalgadh Hospital where leprosy was diagnosed, though Rekah wasn’t told of this. Instead her father told her that she had a ‘big disease’ and needed to take medicine. After treatment it was Rekha’s stepmother who told her she had leprosy and that no one would want to marry her. Her stepmother refused to give Rekha food and was very unkind to her.
Counsellors at Lalgadh Hospital gave lots of support and encouragement and slowly the family situation improved. Rekha attended regular sessions at the hospital, and in 2009 she met and fell in love with Sanjay there. He was also receiving treatment for leprosy.
Rekha joined Danusha in 2010 and has really grown in confidence since then. She’s very creative, shows a lot of initiative and we’re delighted that she’s part of our project. Sanjay also works for Danusha and it’s lovely to see this couple so happy and content.
Rekha enjoys her work at Danusha. Her economic condition has improved, she’s saving money and can also make her own necklaces to sell on her snack stall.
With the support of organisations like The Fair Traders Co-operative we’re gradually developing a regular customer base here in the UK, enabling more people to own and enjoy Danusha jewellery and to help people like Rekha in the process.
Danusha jewellery is available online from The Fair Traders Co-operative
As far as festivals go, The Fair Traders Cooperative’s ‘Family Fairtrade Festival’ has it all. It is the ultimate destination for families seeking fun and adventure within an ethical setting, with more child-friendly activities than you can shake a stick at!
The Family Fairtrade Festival is an annual festival supported by The Fair Traders Cooperative. It is held in Holmfirth, and offers a range of family activities centred around an ethical theme, all packed into three fantastic hours of fun, frolicking and, of course, FAIRTRADE! The festival is timed each year to mark International Youth Day, and provides a day of ethical entertainment for our local young people and visitors alike.
The festival this year kicked off with a carnival of delights including music of the folk variety, accompanied by a female giant named Maximum, located in the Upper Bridge Quarter Gardens opposite The Fair Traders Cooperative, – this certainly grabbed the attention of passers by!
Held on Saturday 13th August, festival goers were treated to a host of activities. Children and grown ups alike were seen singing and jigging, juggling and poi-spinning, colouring and gluing! Circus tricks specialist David Steedman shared his love of the circus with festival goers, as he taught them how to juggle, swing poi and to use the diabolo. He also demonstrated his skills with such instruments, as crowds watched in awe at his ability to make circus skills look not only fun, but very easy to learn.
Families were invited to make their own paper windmill. These were very colourfully decorated, many with an eco-friendly and green theme. Whilst crafting, children were encouraged to think about wind energy as a resource, as they discussed what wind is, how it is made, and how it can be converted into electricity.
Little girls and boys waited patiently in line to have their faces painted, whilst brothers and sisters tried their hand at welly wanging. Helen Robinson, who came along with her family said, “I’m looking forward to the Family Fairtrade Festival of 2012 already. Welly wanging will be in the Olympics, just you wait and see.” The welly wanging was a very successful feature at this years festival, of which Madeleine Orme was the triumphant winner, her prize being an invitation for her and a friend to come along to a Fairtrade Fun on Fridays craft session, held in The Fair Traders Cooperative community room throughout the summer holidays.
Meanwhile, many children built and decorated one of the Paper Pod cardboard play-dens, sold at The Fair Traders Cooperative, with colourful and elaborate designs, both inside and out. Whilst sipping on a cup of Fairtrade tea, Rebekka Bojanowski one of the festival’s organisers, exclaimed, “The festival has been a big success! Bigger and better next year!!”Find out about other events at The Fair Traders Co-operative by checking the events calendar.